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Miss May I - "At Heart" (CD)

Miss May I - "At Heart" CD cover image

"At Heart" track listing:

1. At Heart (:48)
2. Hey Mister (3:55)
3. Opening Wounds (4:13)
4. Leech (4:15)
5. Second To No One (3:58)
6. Sirens Song (3:53)
7. Day By Day (3:34)
8. Bleeding Out (2:59)
9. Road Of The Lost (3:23)
10. Found Our Way (2:47)
11. Gold To Rust (3:25)
12. Live This Life (3:48)
13. Ballad Of A Broken Man (3:40)

Reviewed by on June 27, 2012

"Miss May I has been smart to tour with the likes of Whitechapel and The Ghost Inside, as those band's fan bases will get the most out of a flat record like 'At Heart.'"

If you wanted to explain to a friend what today’s metalcore sounds like, throw them a copy of Miss May I’s new album “At Heart.” It’s the kind of music that hits its peak a decade ago, yet bands still continue to churn it out and people keep buying the records. “At Heart” fills the void that any regular metalcore fan desperately needs, but it is as soft and generic as metal comes these days. Average to a tee, and lacking any semblance of originality, “At Heart” knows its audience and caters to them, playing it safe and without any major twists.

A classic example of jumping into the fray without second-guessing the decision, Miss May I looks to throw their best stuff out early on. “Hey Mister” builds from the opening title track and feels like a rush of caffeine to the heart. The harsh verses/clean chorus are sharp, if very derivative for the genre, and the band doesn’t overdo the breakdowns or gang chants. “Opening Wounds” and “Second To No One” act in a comparable fashion, silencing any blowhard’s stances about the credibility of the band.

That credibility gets smaller and smaller as the album treads on. With the exception of the melodic “Found Our Way,” each song follows a formula so tightly that there’s no way to spring out of it. A listener can predict how a song is going to proceed 30 seconds in, and 99% of the time, they would be correct. “At Heart” is not the kind of album that should have 13 tracks, as they exceed their worth seven or eight songs in. That leaves a whole bunch of filler that isn’t even entertaining to listen to in a “so bad, it’s good” way.

Metalcore isn’t a forward-thinking style of music, but Miss May I could have at least done something fresh to the sound. When it’s hard to distinguish between two songs back-to-back, that’s a concern that should be addressed. A brief foray into soft guitars on “Found Our Way” and a few leads on “Ballad Of A Broken Man” are about as impressive as the guitar work gets. Vocals fall in the same boat, as the clean vocals sound too polished and the harsh ones grate on the nerves around the half-hour mark.

“At Heart” starts off like a 100 meter sprinter. Put that 100 meter sprinter in an 800 meter race and they will struggle; that’s what happens to “At Heart.” A 45-minute album that should have been cut down by at least 10 minutes, there isn’t the right level of consistency needed to invoke an unanimous consensus of approval. Miss May I has been smart to tour with the likes of Whitechapel and The Ghost Inside, as those band's fan bases will get the most out of a flat record like “At Heart.”

Highs: First half has a few exciting songs, "Found Our Way" is a solid, melodic tune

Lows: Lack of innovation, follows the metalcore formula to a tee, could be cut down by ten minutes and lose nothing

Bottom line: "At Heart" has its moments, but doesn't stand up over time and is way too similar to dozens of other metalcore bands.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)